Blood + Roses – a review

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Reviews should be objective. It’s never a good sign for a pundit to write a piece on a film when it’s known that he or she was involved in it’s creation. There’s no sense of distance, and every chance of bias.

Here is my review of Blood + Roses, a film which gives me a prominent colourist credit, and for which I put together an EPK.

Blood + Roses is a film about a girl who cannot help but get involved with bad boys.

At the beginning of the film we meet Jane, who is stuck in a loveless relationship with Martin, a cold, controlling bastard played with misogynistic glee by Kane John Scott. Jane, frail and wounded, has nightmares of something awful that has happened to her in the recent past. Something that she can’t quite remember, and that Martin is in no hurry to help her recall. Something that they have driven to an isolated cottage in the country to try and put behind them.

Once there, things don’t seem to be improving for Jane. Martin is unsympathetic, selfish. Then she meets, and is seduced by the ultimate tall, dark stranger – Seth, a vampire. As Jane begins to change, her memories of what has happened begin to return, and her frailty is shed in favour of something more primal. Physically and mentally, her strength returns. As it does so, Jane begins to thirst. Not just for blood, but for revenge.

Blood + Roses is an attempt to tweak some of the more romantic aspects of the vampire mythos, to tease out some dark truths about the nature of attraction and desire. Jane may be stuck in a loveless marriage, but she knows what she’s getting into with Seth. She embraces her new life with relish, and an almost unseemly haste, considering the consequences.

Jane is played by Marysia Kay with a touching fragility in the early stages of film, before her transformation. After, she becomes stronger, sleeker, more feline, graceful yet deadly. She portrays this change nicely, and as a vet of the BritHorror scene, I would have been surprised if she hadn’t. This is, after all, an actress who specialises in portraying strong women – sometimes strong enough to pull their hapless victims in two!

Seth, the third point in the triangle, is played with louche charm by Benjamin Green. Seth appears worldly and urbane, but at the same time he is very much the predator of the piece. He simply walks into Martin and Jane’s life and takes what he wants, without a wasted thought to the consequences. Jane is quick to embrace his attitude – any escape from the airless trap that her life has become with Martin would seem to be acceptable, even the loss of her soul.

Blood + Roses is a film to muse over, something that needs a little time to sink in and percolate. It’s careful to play with the mythos just enough – the “v word” is never mentioned, and in this film they can be seen in mirrors. An interesting move, perhaps to bring home the point that the life Seth offers is a dark mirror of the one Jane is so keen to leave. The life of a vampire is, in it’s way, as constrained as her marriage to Martin. She will never see the sun again, eat real food be able to have children. Her time with Martin may have stripped away most of her humanity, but accepting Seth’s bloody bargain means turning her back on what’s left of it.

The isolated location of Blood + Roses works in it’s favour. Most of the action takes place in the confines of the small cottage Martin and Jane have rented. The camera stays tightly framed on the actors, trapping them in dark corners, unable to escape their fate. The cinematography is lush and rich, though, and colour is used to surreal effect in a couple of dream sequences. Kudos to DoP Richard J. Wood and director Simon Aitken for resisting the temptation to desaturate the colour palette and give the pictures a mud wash. This is a good-looking film, even if it was shot in nasty HD video.

The film really comes to life when it’s focussed in on the vampires. The chemistry between Seth and Jane comes across beautifully, to the point where I was disappointed when they weren’t on screen. By contrast, I felt too much time was spent on the plot cooked up by Martin and his doctor friend Ted, and their crime against Jane. This wasn’t helped by the dry reading given by Adam Bambrough, which made the pair come across as buffoonish rather than truly evil. A shame, because on the whole I thought the script, by Simon’s long-time writing partner Ben Woodiwiss, worked well. And the guy can write a mean vampire.

On the whole, then, I found Blood + Roses an entertaining take on a couple of standard horror tropes. It doesn’t wallow in grue or histrionic performances, preferring instead a low-key approach that builds slowly towards the finale. Here, at last, my gorehound tendency was satisfied in an ending that riffed nicely on classical and Elizabethan revenge tragedy. It’s something a bit different, and I wish it well.

But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

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